Take It or Leave It: Whether to Take a Contract Job and How to Quit One

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Jun 2, 2023 8 min read

Are you confused about whether you can quit your contract job? The good news is, in most cases, you can.

Even under the best circumstances, resigning from a job can be anxiety-inducing. That stress can be even worse if you leave a temporary or contract position.

If you have to leave your contract job before the duration of your service is up, there are a few things you need to consider. You want to come across as professional to secure a reference and don’t need to leave a gap in your resume.

In this article, we:

  • Discuss what a contract job is.
  • Answer the most common questions about contract jobs.
  • Look at whether you can quit your contract job.
  • Cover the best steps to resign from a contract job.

Sometimes leaving a job is the best way to advance your career. If you’re considering a job transition, use our career counselling service to prepare for your next interview or any other career choices.

We’ve helped thousands of people succeed in their job search, prep for interviews, negotiate the details of their contracts, and otherwise hit their career targets. Get in touch with us to do a deep dive on how to succeed in interviews or if you're curious about other ways to navigate your career path better.

What is a contract job?

There are two main types of contract jobs. You may get hired through a staffing company or as a self-employed or independent contractor.

In either case, you’re employed for a specified time or for a project decided in advance. Contract employees usually sign paperwork – their contract - that lays out what they’ll be paid, their duties, and of course, the expected date or project goal that ends the contract.

Contract jobs can include almost every type of job. Generally, staffing agencies supply workers with basic transferable skills, while independent contractors have specific skills.

The top 10 US industries that employ the most contract workers are:

  1. Computer & IT
  2. Administrative
  3. Accounting & Finance
  4. Customer Service
  5. Software Development
  6. Medical & Health
  7. Project Management
  8. Research Analyst
  9. Writing
  10. Education & Training

Can you quit a contract job?

Yes, of course, you can. Technically, no one can force you to work against your will, and you have the right to quit your job anytime for any reason.

But, your contract probably specifies whether you have to give your employer notice and any penalties there may be for resigning early. And it’s probably legally binding, so if you’re unsure, ask a legal professional to look at your contract and explain the terms to you.

If you haven’t signed yet and you’re reading this to learn about contract work in advance, you have more flexibility. If your written contract doesn't allow for early termination, consider renegotiating the terms to keep your options open.

Is contract work right for you?

If you are here because you’re considering contract work, look over our answers to the contract job questions we get most often.

Are contract jobs better?

Only you can answer this for yourself, but there are some benefits to consider with a contract position. These options will vary from job to job and based on your skills and experience.

  • Immediate job placement or minimal interviews compared to a traditional interview process
  • Some contracts offer higher base pay instead of health or other benefits
  • More flexible scheduling options
  • Option to shift from temporary to permanent if there is a good fit
  • Try out a variety of jobs to find your best fit without a long-term commitment
  • Great opportunity to quickly learn a wide range of skills
  • Build your resume experience and skills sections quickly
  • The chance to grow your professional network

What are the time commitments for a contract job?

This is two questions in one. First, day to day, you may need to work full-time or part-time hours, or the hours may be entirely flexible.

Second, in the longer term, contracts may be by the project or for a specific time - usually between three months and a year. If things work out during a time-based contract, an employer will often offer a permanent position or extend the contract.

At the same time, if things aren’t working out, most contracts allow the employer to end the contract early. Specific reasons for termination and grace periods should be included too.

Will my contract include benefits?

In most cases, no, it will not. Short-term contract jobs typically have higher initial pay rates and don’t include benefits. Some longer-term contracts may include them.

What about when the contract ends?

If it was a contract for a one-time project, that might be the end of interaction with the employer. But, if it was a well-done job, you may have made a connection for continued work.

You and the employer may just part ways when the agreed period is up for a time-based contract. Often though, if you did a decent job, the employer will want to keep you on.

You’d be fully trained and part of the team by now, so you’re a perfect candidate. If they keep you on, it might be a permanent position with steadier hours, more responsibility, and benefits.

If you’re still unsure whether a contract job is a good choice for you, or need help looking over the details of one you have, use our career counselling service. We’ll help you weigh your options and find the best fit flor your career goals..

How to quit a contract job

If you plan to leave a contract job early, take these steps to resign from your position professionally and leave in good standing.

Review your contract

Again, you can quit any job, but there may be details in the contract about how to do this or penalties you may face. Before you do anything, review the details of your contract.

Take account of who helped you

If you secured your contract on your own, you’re good, but if you got it through someone in your network, giving them a heads-up about your plans is a good idea. Getting in touch to let them know shows you respect them and their reputation, and they may be able to give you tips on how best to approach the situation.

If you got the job through an employment agency, contact your rep in person or by phone (use email as a last resort) to let them know you intend to resign. Maintaining a good relationship with them is important if you want their help again.

Set a professional tone

You catch more flys with honey than with vinegar. Meaning, “It’s not what you say but how you say it”.

Approach your employer using a respectful and professional attitude and language. They’ll be more likely to respond positively and make your exit easy rather than set up speed bumps.

Give them notice

The standard in most jobs is to give two weeks’ notice, but if you can give more, they’ll appreciate it. Do not just walk out.

Consider giving more notice if:

  • You've been working at the company for a long time, for example, if it’s your second contract with them
  • If the schedule is busy or your project is in a critical stage or near completion.
  • If there’s been a lot of people coming and going.
  • They’ve come to depend on you, or you’ve received specialized training from them.

Write a resignation letter

A resignation letter is necessary if you’re aiming for a professional resignation. In most cases, it’s also a requirement for documentation purposes.

It doesn’t have to be long but should include your intended day of departure as a minimum. You might also include your reason for leaving and thanks for any experience you gained there.

Talk to your boss or supervisor

It’s a good idea to try setting up one-on-one face time with the senior employee you’ve worked under most. They may have put time into training you, know you better than people above them, and could smooth any ruffled feathers your early exit might cause.

Take some time to think about positive things you can say about them, your time working there, and the company in general. Being gracious and courteous goes a long way toward gaining someone’s support, and you may get it in return if you ask for a reference someday.

Keep working hard

Once you’re in your notice period, keep doing the same good job you’ve done the whole while. Don’t think you can start slacking off and shirking responsibility because you’re leaving.

In a very real way, this is the period that people will most remember you for. If you want to leave on good terms, tie up any loose ends, offer to help train your replacement and keep your standards high.

Pro tips for resigning from a contract position

Consider these tips if you intend to leave a contract position before the planned end date.

Firm up your plans:

Don’t jump ship before you’re sure you want to quit and everything is settled in your new position. It’s great to be hopeful, but don’t lose your job today only to find out something fell through where you plan to go.

Double-check your contract penalties:

You may have no penalties if you give notice, but they also may be hidden in the fine print. You’re better off double- or even triple-checking to avoid a penalty that puts you behind in your goals.

Keep in touch:

Part of being a professional is being able to stay, well… professional. This means staying available, getting feedback, and communicating throughout the notice period.

Leave the red stapler:

If you didn’t buy it and they didn’t give it to you, you must bring it back or leave it there. Ensure any tools and materials - and especially any intellectual property - you were issued are returned safely, in good condition and promptly.


  • Yes, you can always quit, but your contract might stipulate how.
  • Always review your contract to see what steps to take to quit your contract job.
  • Giving notice is a must. Aim for at least two weeks.
  • Write a resignation letter and set a meeting to talk face-to-face with your supervisor about your exit.
  • Keep providing the same professional service you did right through your last day.

We’ve helped 1000+ people like you find success in the hiring process through our career counselling service. Whether you need help in the job search stage, prepping for interviews, or negotiating compensation, we’ve got experts ready to help you strategize your next move.

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Kevin Roy
After a successful career in the corporate and non-profit worlds hunting for and hiring great candidates for my and others' teams, I spend my time writing on the subjects I love and know most about.
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